From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay Feature
Related Categories: International | North Coast | U.S. | Environment & Forest Defense | Health, Housing & Public Services
Responsible Organic Sustainable Palm Oil: A Plurality Of Semantics
by Tomas DiFiore
Monday Jun 13th, 2016 10:42 AM
The scenario most likely to result from the RSPO process is that in the future there will be two production sectors supplying different markets. On the one hand there will be a group of companies with certification that will attempt to a greater or lesser extent to comply with the principles and criteria adopted by the RSPO, while on the other hand there will be a second group of non-certified companies that will continue with “business as usual” (conventional palm oil sourcing and global trading). “The Greening Of A Shady Business” by World Rainforest Movement

Download PDF
Responsible Organic Sustainable Palm Oil: A Plurality Of Semantics

At the local level, honest, thoughtful communication regarding specifically the removal of products from store shelves containing Palm Oil company by company, led to a frankness in exchanging information. “If you have any information you would like to share with us regarding palm oil production, we'd be happy to take a look. Let me know if there's anything I can do to help. Thanks for taking the time to reach out to us.”

Image credits: Organic Industry Structure Top 100 Food Processors North America
Published January 2016 by Phil Howard MSU Associate Professor

Buy it Local, a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate headquarters…

It's 2016, and semantics aside… Has Earth Balance changed their corporate commitment policy statement to a responsible palm oil sourcing policy?

“Nearly 40% of Earth Balance’s palm oil comes from Colombia. Earth Balance’s Colombia-sourced palm oil is 100% organic and is used in all Earth Balance’s organic products. The remaining portion of Earth Balance’s palm oil;


comes from responsible sources in Southeast Asia that are leading positive change in that area of the world through conservation of high carbon stock (HCS) forest, influential social programs and more.” (It was stated as Peninsular Malaysia in 2014-2015)

Certification re-Branding Or Industry Overhaul? See the sentence emphasis has changed to “First American Food Company To Adopt A Truly Responsible Policy” whereas; the last 12 years of certification schemes and NGO oversight have emphasized adopting and defining a 'sustainable policy' attempting to cover every aspect of the environmental and human rights crisis related to global palm oil expansion.

POIG Certification, is in a different hemisphere … and;
In March of 2016, The POIG Charter seems to address FPIC in a most comprehensive way, although a lot of documentation is required which varies from country to country, but even redress to communities going back to establishment of the plantation is covered.

“The Palm Oil Innovation Group recognized Earth Balance and Boulder Brands as the “First American Food Company to Adopt a Truly Responsible Palm Oil Policy.”

Giving credit where due - “Earth Balance supports the action-oriented, on-the ground conservation work of Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) in Indonesian Borneo. Earth Balance is especially proud to be a financial supporter of OFI’s ongoing initiative to return 330 wild-born, ex-captive, rehabilitated orangutans back to the wild, into biologically rich, protected forest, where they rightfully belong.”

That is very cool.

In 2015, Earth Natural had this to say: “One company that uses palm oil in its proprietary vegetable oil blend is Boulder Brands, publicly held maker of Earth Balance plant-based, natural and organic buttery spreads. “We are aware of the issues surrounding palm oil and are pushing our supply chain for more sustainable options,” said Duane Primozich of Boulder Brands, maker of natural, organic and gluten-free products under the Smart Balance, Earth Balance, Udi’s, Glutino and Evol brands.”

“Currently, we (Boulder Brands) purchase Green Palm certificates to offset our conventional palm oil purchases, and we source only from (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) RSPO member suppliers, says Primozich. The company also contributes to the work of Dr. Birute Galdikas, the world’s foremost authority on orangutans, whose foundation is seeking to establish orangutan Legacy Forests in Borneo.”

“Working with Daabon, which has a strong reputation for sustainability in South America and takes a holistic approach to agriculture, Boulder Brands is seeking to convert more of its supply chain to South America – currently, 40% of the palm oil it purchases is sourced from South America and is certified organic – as demand for organic is growing twice as fast as its natural and conventional products, said Primozich.”

“While we still have conventional palm oil in our non-organic Earth Balance items, we have affidavits in place from our suppliers certifying our oil comes from peninsular Malaysia vs. the Kalimantan region of Borneo, which is one of the last habitats for orangutans. However small a role, the company remains committed to exploring all options to source sustainable plant-based oils” Primozich went on to say.

These 'Sourcing percentages' don't sound too different really. 'Boulder Brands' in 2015 sourced the conventional palm oil it used from Peninsular Malaysia, where in 2013 the last rainforest tree was cut. (See link at end.) Transparency seems to have faded, as they aren't that specific in 2016.

Seventy Per Cent Organic Legal Labeling (see end of article)

As for EVOL… Perhaps this processed food product doesn't even belong on the shelf of Coops and Natural Food Venues. It's just another fast food item commodity of convenience requiring massive refrigeration and hardly organic. But then maybe with all the time saved, people can make their own organic palm oil free vegan butter at home!

Now there are two interpretations that determine the different wording allowed on packaging at above or below 70 per cent organic. This is critical. As one reads further on, it becomes apparent that EVOL is in the last category, that is to say, 70% organic or less.

EVOL is 70% organic. 15 g protein. 4 g fiber. Inspected for wholesomeness by US Department of Agriculture. Palm Oil (Asterisk Indicates Certified Organic Ingredient)

The rice, white flour, salsa, black beans and palm oil are organic. (Veggie Fajita)

In the EVOL Veggie Fajita Filling, the only 'Organic Ingredient' listed is the Palm Oil:
Filling: Cooked Egg Whites (Egg Whites, Corn Starch, Salt, Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid), Roasted Potatoes (Potatoes, Canola Oil, Salt, Pepper), Tomatoes In Juice (Tomatoes, Calcium Chloride, Citric Acid), Cheddar Cheese (Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), Spinach, Roasted Tomatoes, Onions, Corn Starch, Garlic, Jalapeños, Cilantro, Lime Juice, Salt, Pepper. Tortilla: Whole Wheat Flour, Wheat Flour, Water, Palm Oil(asterisk), Canola Oil, Baking Powder, Salt, Guar Gum. (Asterisk Indicates Organic Ingredient)

Food philosophy – Love what you eat. With a goal to redefine frozen foods. At EVOL they congratulate themselves on using Non GMO carrots!

As far as I know, the FDA approved a variety of GMO carrot for medicinal extract only:
(An Israeli firm grew human disease enzymes in carrot cells, and produced a treatment for Gaucher disease that they say shows improvement comparable to a treatment derived from hamster cells. The drug goes by the name Elelyso.) Approved to treat Gaucher, which is a rare disease found mostly among Ashkenazi Jews. Out of a global population of 6.8 billion, an estimated range of 600,000 to a million people carry the recessive gene for it, though not all are symptomatic.

That's not a lot of carrots, and the drug is grown in carrot cells in a petri dish. Seems like a bit of editorial license by EVOL and Boulder Brands seasoned with a little dumb-down of the target consumer groups in the U.S., and a fresh coat of Greenwash over the burned landscapes of Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sumatra, Sarawak and Kalimantan, PNG and the Phillippines (partial list).

The only Organic ingredient in all the products (enchiladas, fajita cups, lean and fit boxed meals) listed on the following linked page is the Pinto Beans! While palm oil is not listed as an ingredient, at some point there's no point.

Why is Palm Oil is not shown as an ingredient alongside a beautiful picture of smoking deforestation. Palm Oil is an ingredient in EVOL Foods seems it would be listed...

Perhaps we need mandatory Palm Oil Labeling Law in the U.S.

Boulder Brands paid 48 million dollars for EVOL in December 2013. Boulder Brands acquired Denver-based Udi's Healthy Foods in June 2012 for $125 million. “Rather than build Boulder Brands' frozen-foods division from scratch, it made sense to use the expertise of EVOL's management team.”

How To Read An 'Organic' Label

Multi-Ingredient Foods
Foods such as beverages, snacks, and other processed foods use the following classification system to indicate their use of organic ingredients.

100% Organic - Foods bearing this label are made with 100% organic ingredients* and may display the USDA Organic seal.

Organic - These products contain at least 95–99% organic ingredients (by weight). The remaining ingredients are not available organically but have been approved by the NOP. These products may display the USDA Organic seal.

Made With Organic Ingredients - Food packaging that reads “Made With Organic Ingredients” must contain 70–94% organic ingredients. These products will not bear the USDA Organic seal; instead, they may list up to three ingredients on the front of the packaging.

Other - Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may only list organic ingredients on the information panel of the packaging. These products will not bear the USDA Organic seal.

The Boulder Brands EVOL packaged foods products line is most often advertised for sale as “Made From Organic Ingredients” though this again is a semantic differentiation often missed by those electing to choose to 'support organic agriculture' in everyday purchases, and is therefore misleading in a practical way if not legally. The USDA seal is not used, so no harm done!

Specifically, once again:

Products containing at least 70 percent organically produced ingredients may include a “Made with Organic Ingredients” label to specify up to three ingredients or ingredient categories. They can not use the USDA organic seal or represent that the finished product is organic.

The rules for labeling organic retail products, both raw and processed, are addressed under the “Product Composition” section of the USDA organic regulations. The regulations cover the wording allowed on both the front panel and the information panel of a packaged product.

(Principal display panel) portion of the package most likely to be seen by customers at the time of purchase. Your certifying agent will review and approve each of your product labels to ensure compliance.

(Information Panel) includes includes ingredient statement (list of ingredients contained in a product, from highest to lowest percentage of final product) and other product information.
The four categories of labeling based on product composition & the labeling specifications for each are summarized below:

“100 percent organic”
“100 percent organic” can be used to label any product that contains 100 percent organic ingredients (excluding salt and water, which are considered natural). Most raw, unprocessed farm products can be designated “100 percent organic.” Likewise, many value-added farm products that have no added ingredients such as grain flours, rolled oats, etc., can also be labeled “100 percent organic.”
(Principal display panel): May include USDA organic seal and/or 100 percent organic claim.
(Information Panel) Must identify organic ingredients (e.g., organic dill) or via asterisk or other mark.

“Organic” can be used to label any product that contains a minimum of 95 percent organic ingredients (excluding salt and water). Up to 5 percent of the ingredients may be nonorganic agricultural products that are not commercially available as organic and/or nonagricultural products that are on the National List.
(Principal display panel) May include USDA organic seal and/or organic claim.
Information Panel: Must identify organic ingredients (e.g., organic dill) or via asterisk or other mark.

“Made with Organic ______”
“Made with Organic ______”can be used to label a product that contains at least 70 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding salt and water). There are a number of detailed constraints regarding the ingredients that comprise the nonorganic portion.
(Principal display panel) May state “made with organic (insert up to three ingredients or ingredient categories).” Must not include USDA organic seal anywhere, represent finished product as organic, or state “made with organic ingredients.”
(Information Panel) Must identify organic ingredients (e.g., organic dill) or via asterisk or other mark.

Specific Ingredient Listings
The specific organic ingredients may be listed in the ingredient statement of products containing less than 70 percent organic contents, for example, “Ingredients: water, barley, beans, organic tomatoes, salt.”
(Principal display panel) Must not include USDA organic seal anywhere or the word “organic” on principal display panel.
(Information Panel) May only list certified organic ingredients as organic in the ingredient list and the percentage of organic ingredients. Remaining ingredients are not required to follow the USDA organic regulations.

People who sell or label a product "organic" when they know it does not meet USDA standards can be fined up to $11,000 for each violation.

International Organics

The United States has trade arrangements with several nations to facilitate the exchange of organic products. These arrangements provide additional market opportunities for USDA organic producers. Consumers also benefit from a wider range of organic products year-round.
The National Organic Program works with the Foreign Agricultural Service and Office of the United States Trade Representative to establish international trade arrangements for organic products.

CCOF Once Again Tops List of NOP Organic Certifiers

(April 4, 2013) Santa Cruz, CA – Recently released figures indicate that CCOF Certification Services remains the largest USDA National Organic Program (NOP) certifier of organic products in the world. CCOF certifies 2,346 operations, serving 14% of USDA-certified organic operations. The California certifier gained 1% market share over the last year, more than any other organic certifier in the nation did. In addition to the premier organic certification program, the nonprofit CCOF (California Certified Organic Famers) is among the nation’s most influential advocates on behalf of organic.

Now, back to responsible company policies regarding Palm Oil and Palm Kernel Oil.

Organic and fair trade company Dr. Bronner’s has gone to great lengths to develop its own sustainable, certified organic palm oil farm project, Serendipalm, to supply the ingredient for its own solid soap bars and other products. “According to Les Szabo, who helps director the Serendipalm project for the fourth-generation family owned business, Dr. Bronner’s works directly with farmers and producers in Asuom, Ghana, where no rainforests are destroyed for palm plantations.”

“The company works with its Ghanaian partners to improve soil quality and yields through organic farming practices; respect and promote endemic species’ habitats; ensure safe working conditions; and pay fair wages. Dr. Bronner’s also pays 10% into a fair trade fund, which is used for community development projects in the area. To date, these fair trade funds have helped to provide four deep-water wells, living quarters for nurses at a local hospital, and school supplies for local children, Szabo says. The company hopes to scale production to provide for future growth and possibly to supply other companies with organic, fair trade palm oil, but that’s a long-term goal, he says.”

“Sustainable food producer Nutiva by partnering with Natural Habitats in Ecuador, the company says it ensures that no deforestation or habitat destruction results from the growing or harvesting process, and the product is fair trade certified by Fair for Life.”

“The region in Ecuador where Nutiva’s palm oil is sourced is grown on organic farms averaging 10 hectares (about 25 acres), interspersed throughout regional forests. These farms were planted many years ago, says the company, and are now being worked by second and third generation family farmers.”

Fair Trade and Fair For Life Projects cannot be compared to RSPO or POIG certification schemes, or various individual company zero-net deforestation commitments, or the Consumer Goods Forum (Group) zero-net deforestation commitment.

This bespeaks a naivety, to the spirit of social responsibility, and ethical sourcing. And yes, in getting back to you now, there is information I would like to share with you regarding palm oil production, when you stated “we'd be happy to take a look.”

Saying No To Palm Oil In The U.S.

This is a 12 page document with graphics; highly detailed in presentation, everything is referenced, cited, or source linked. Most data is current 2014, 2015, through to January, February, April and June 2016 in an attempt to depict trends, patterns, and practices. Because of the complexity of labeling and lack of true company transparency, I personally will continue to boycott products that contain palm oil, and that are not fully organic, or Fair Trade where applicable.

In following documents I hope to summarize certification of palm oil in the Latin Hemisphere, and conclude with PNG and the Philippines as palm oil expansion is fraught with protest and deforestation there also. Africa probably deserves it's own section but Fair Trade and Fair For Life certification standards also benefit communities involved in palm oil production there, amidst traditional agro-ecological conditions that benefit the natural environment.

Please consider removing all palm oil products that are not certified through comparable systems to Identity Preserved full traceability, or Fair Trade and Fair For Life equivalent – understandably 'certified organic'.

With said concerns, I wish to press for specific clarity, in requests for complete transparency in sourcing palm oil and palm kernel oil products.

Tomas DiFiore

By invoking the 'Copyright Disclaimer' Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use."

§ 107. Limitations on exclusive rights- Fair use: Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

If you or anyone wish to use copyrighted material from this article for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Tomas DiFiore